Don't you think Philip Rivers should be a top-five pick next year? He's one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league. -- Boltfanonwheels (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano: Rivers is a fantastic quarterback and clearly one of the top five players at his position heading into next season, but he's nowhere near worth a top-five pick in fantasy drafts. With the immense depth at the quarterback position, owners should focus their attention on running backs and wide receivers in the first four to five rounds. In fact, I'd go after two runners and two wideouts before I even thought about taking a signal-caller. I see Rivers as a third- or fourth-round selection, but there are too many good quarterbacks to take him in Round 1.
Our league allows two keepers, and I have Adrian Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall and Roddy White. Peterson appears to be the no-brainer of the trio, but who else should I retain? Both Mendenhall and White are rated fairly closely. Does our PPR format make you lean towards White? -- J. Cubbage, Punta Gorda, Fla.
M.F.: Peterson is clearly the best keeper of the three, and I would retain White ahead of Mendenhall based on the league's scoring system. While Mendenhall is a nice featured back and a serviceable pass catcher (23 receptions in 2010), he still scored 80 fewer fantasy points than White in PPR leagues last season. White is also one of the most reliable players at his position. In fact, he is the lone wideout to finish in the top seven in fantasy points at his position in each of the last three seasons.
M.F.: A lot can (and will) change between now and the start of September, but at this point it looks like the situation in New Orleans will be the bigger headache. The team has locked up Pierre Thomas for the next four years, so he's clearly going to be a prominent part of the offense. The coaching staff also likes what Chris Ivory brings to the table, and Reggie Bush is in the mix for touches out of the backfield as well. With that number of mouths to feed, it's going to be tough to find one runner who'll produce at a consistent level. In San Diego, I see Ryan Mathews as the team's No. 1 running back as long as he can avoid injuries. Mike Tolbert is also going to see his share of the workload, however, so some sort of backfield committee looks imminent. Mathews has more draft value, but he'll be a risk-reward option.
If you had to predict one breakout player at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end positions for next season, who would they be? Thanks! -- B. Starks, Little Rock, Ark.
M.F.: If he can avoid the trainer's room, I think Matthew Stafford is going to have a huge season. In fact, I can see him developing into a legitimate No. 1 fantasy quarterback. At running back, I believe Jonathan Stewart can be a stat-sheet stuffer if the Panthers part ways with DeAngelo Williams. While he's not a typical breakout candidate -- Stewart broke out in 2009 -- he could be in a position to put up far better totals than he had last season. I also love Kenny Britt among wide receivers. He showed flashes of potential in 2010 and is entering his third NFL season, which is when countless wideouts before him first posted huge numbers. At tight end, I think the obvious choice is Jermichael Finley. He has had one good statistical season (2009), but Finley has yet to have that enormous season that puts him among the elite tight ends.
M.F.: The Chargers have already placed their franchise tag on Jackson (assuming that holds water with the current state of the collective bargaining agreement), so it looks like he'll be back with the team in 2011. The veteran wide receiver appears content to play under the tag as well, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune that "another season in San Diego would be awesome." With a superstar like Rivers under center in an offense that will score a ton of points, Jackson should re-emerge as a low-end No. 1 fantasy wideout. He ranks No. 12 at the position on NFL.com.
M.F.: I completely agree. The decision to retain Brees, Mendenhall and Johnson gives you a top-10 option at each of the three major fantasy positions, with Brees and Johnson ranking among the top five at their respective spots. In the re-draft, be sure to target a running back, a wideout and a tight end with your first three selections.
Should any of the quarterbacks in the 2011 draft class even be considered in a standard fantasy drafts? -- SCDL14 (via Twitter)
M.F.: It's hard to put a fantasy value on any rookie before the NFL Draft, but this class doesn't have a lot to offer on the surface. Outside of a few running backs, including Mark Ingram, and wideouts like A.J. Green and Julio Jones, rookies aren't likely to make a major impact in 2011. That is clearly the case with the quarterbacks, as Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallett and the rest of the top-ranked signal-callers will be hard pressed to be worth more than a late-round flier in seasonal formats. One player to monitor in the draft and through training camp, though, is Greg Little. The North Carolina wideout could be this year's version of Mike Williams.
M.F.: Based on the numbers he's produced in three years at the NFL level, I don't see Jackson reaching the same level as someone like Andre Johnson. He's proven his skills as a playmaker, leading the NFL in yards-per-catch average (22.5), but Jackson has also averaged a mediocre 57 receptions in three pro seasons. He was also one of the least-consistent wide receivers based on fantasy points last season. I also believe Nicks, not Jackson, is the wideout who is far more likely to develop into an elite option in 2011. In fact, I have the Giants wide receiver ranked fourth at his position on NFL.com. If he can avoid injuries and plays a full 16 games, I wouldn't be a bit shocked if Nicks is the leading fantasy-point scorer among wideouts at season's end.
M.F.: One of the heroes of Super Bowl XLV, I would be surprised if Nelson didn't move into a more prominent role for the Packers next season. Donald Driver's final numbers fell considerably in 2010, and at 36 he is clearly on the downside of his career. Jones, who is scheduled to become a free agent, has already expressed his desire to be a starter in the NFL. He also told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he's not sure that will happen in Green Bay while Driver is still in the mix. In a best-case scenario, Nelson will be in a position to record around 60 catches, 800-900 yards and four to six touchdowns. Just be aware, though, that he'll remain in an offense that includes Greg Jennings, Driver and Finley.
M.F.: The Bengals are the toughest call of the four teams you've mentioned. As it stands, it doesn't appear that Carson Palmer will be their quarterback. The veteran appears steadfast in his threat to retire if the Bengals don't deal him, and owner Mike Brown seems just as steadfast in his assertion that a trade won't happen. I don't see Jordan Palmer as the answer, so I wouldn't be surprised if the team went after a quarterback in the first round of the draft -- Newton or Gabbert are both possibilities. There have also been rumors that the team could pursue Kevin Kolb, who looks destined to be traded at some point in the offseason The Broncos seem to have settled on Kyle Orton as their starter (though Tim Tebow is certainly still in the mix), and the Cardinals have been tied to former fantasy star Marc Bulger as a potential free-agent move. Of course, Gabbert could also be an option with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. Finally, I see Donovan McNabb leaving our nation's capitol and landing with the Vikings. I'd be surprised if the Redskins didn't put him on the trade block once the current CBA situation is settled.